Book Reviews: Who Needs Them? Authors Do!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWriters start out as book lovers, long before we pick up a pencil or write a sentence. Readers find value in books. Writers find value in sharing our thoughts and ideas. Reading and writing complete each other. We can’t do one without the other. Writers have no profitable value without readers. Readers have no fun value without writers (okay maybe that’s just me!)

It’s personal to open a book and give it our quality time, interest, and attention. Plus, the money spent on the book increases its worth. Readers understand this evaluation of a book.

Book Reviewers

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Book reviewers have an increased value when they add that extra step. Serious reviewers will take notes on the book, follow the POV, pay attention to details, and then write a thorough review about their experience.

Books are worth a lot to a reader, especially book reviewers.

Positive Reviews

It’s no wonder readers are zealous about their books. For the stories that inspire passion, the book reviewers are a writer’s best customer. Many reviews written are over-the-moon, enthusiastic, engaging, flashy, and emotional pieces of praise every author dreams of receiving.

A potential buyer who sees these reviews will want that same experience and will purchase the book. If they feel the same way about the book, they’ll add their own positive reviews and spread the word. This is an important way to make a book successful, and one enthusiastic review by a popular reviewer can spur a book to higher heights.

Negative Reviews

What writers may not realize is that those same reviewers, so loved for their positive reviews are also known for their undesirable reviews. If they believe a book has wasted their precious quality time, money, and effort they will write as much passion into their negative pieces as they do their positive ones. They don’t spare anyone’s feelings, but write from their heart.

Authors fear these reviews more than any other step in the process. Some writers won’t even release their books if they anticipate negative feedback. If any book struggles to launch big, and then receives a 1-star, did not finish, hate-this-book review from a popular reviewer, it may hurt book sales, but not always.

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There is hope though. Many reviewers won’t write-off an author just because of one negative experience with a book. They know that even the authors they adore will write one or two books they won’t like. They may not like one, but it’s possible to love another. It’s not career ending.

Authors Respond

Unfortunately, this is where some authors make the mistake of challenging the book reviewers. The book enthusiasts take their reviews as seriously as authors take their books. It’s personal to be corrected, lectured, and disrespected by an author for a review. The reviewer is the customer of a product and they don’t get paid for their efforts. They write reviews because of their love for books and they don’t expect confrontation from an author.

Most reviews give helpful critiques, good or bad, that readers can use as a tool to decide to buy a book. It’s also clear when a review focuses on personal attacks and unfair assessments. Readers ignore overly cruel reviews, or at least disregarded them as irrelevant. The author intervention is unnecessary. Trust your customers.

Authors are like small business owners, many of which go out of business if they offer a product no one wants and they refuse to adapt and produce a product people do want. It isn’t the customer’s fault for not liking the product. It’s the nature of business. An entrepreneur puts themselves out there and the customer decides their business fate, the owner needs to adjust. Blaming the customer only ensures any future attempt is tainted by the customer’s bad experience with the owner.

Things to remember about book reviewers:

  • Books are more valuable than the money spent
  • Their reviews come from their heart and passion
  • It takes a lot of effort to write a review
  • Writing a review is serious
  • They won’t always give up on an author for a negative experience
  • Every reader is a customer
  • Customer experience is important for future purchases
  • Expectations for liking a book are high
  • They love books and want to voice their opinions

Authors who don’t respect reviewers will have a hard time selling their books. Every positive and negative response is an opportunity to grow and develop as writers.

What do you think about book reviewers who write harsh and negative criticism? Should they be stopped or given opportunity to voice their opinions?

I would love to discuss with you about this and I love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading my blog.
A.G. Zalens

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Goodreads’ Policy and the New Path for Authors

Untitled-1Times are different for writers. An author gives everything to their writing and sets aside many things to make sure it’s presentable. Only to realize the gut-wrenching writing was the easy part of the process.

The hard part comes next: marketing.

Moving away from past authorship

In the past authors relied on editors, agents, and publisher to promote their books. However, with more books published and less money for each author, the industry pushed the marketing on the authors.

This transition has caused problems for authors.

Before the digital age authors’ access to reviews was limited. Reviews were written by the media or spread by word of mouth in local book clubs. Readers spent time in book stores reading back covers and asking employees for suggestions. Since authors couldn’t influence the reviews their time was devoted to their craft. They wrote and that’s it.

Moving into modern authorship

Now, every blogger, reviewer, and socially active person has the ability to write a public review of books. Couple that with authors promoting their own books and it spells disaster.

Here’s the issue, writers need good reviews to sell more books. No longer do people need to join a local book club or wait for Oprah to announce the next best read to find a book they’ll love. They just open their favorite site and see what’s good.

So if those reviews are negative then book ratings go down, people pass over the book, and sales tank. This concerns the author/marketer who needs those reviews to sell books, a dilemma.

We need reviewers but we don’t want the negative reviews. Yet, reviews are subjective based on many factors in a reader’s life. Maybe when she went to the library that young adult paranormal romance sounded perfect, but by the time she finish she wished it had been a horror fantasy and felt disappointed. Or maybe he bought the book because his buddy recommended it but he couldn’t connect to the first person present tense and abandoned the book.

Not everyone will love our books. In fact, only a small niche is going to enjoy it at all. Negative reviews should always be expected. How an author reacts to it is important.

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Our behavior affects our product, especially when that behavior is public on sites such as: Goodreads and Amazon. Readers are the customer and how we treat our customers will impact our sales.

Authors and the entrepreneurship phase

I understand both aspects of this problem since I’m writing a book and I’ve worked in the marketing industry. We are artists of words, not of convincing strangers to love our words. However, with this new environment many authors seem to forget the other aspect of the writer’s life: entrepreneurship.

Owning a product for sale means authors take on the roll of manager: professional, helpful, understanding, complimentary, and willing to make the customer happy. A bad manager is someone who stirs up conflict with their customers and says or does negative things toward them.

A public figure needs to accept the negative personal comments and focus on the positive. Then learn from it and make the product better the next time.

Goodreads to the rescue

Untitled-1I’ve seen Goodreads struggle in the past few months with authors and reviewers clashing about reviews. The site now warns authors how to respond to reviews. ←

Goodreads announced a new policy that essentially tells reviewers to be nice to authors. Though, this is intended to keep the peace, the management should treat the site like any other product review site.

When an employee of a company acts irresponsibly the customer calls that bad customer service. The book reviewer is the customer and the author is the owner. The person who needs to make the experience pleasurable is the author. The reader reviews and gives feedback.

Reviewers are intelligent and can spot a review that reads hate instead of reasonable and they will ignore those reviews. Goodreads should let the market sort out the problem instead of intervening. Though I’m sure it’s hard to have people complaining on both sides.

Customers need encouragement and assurance that their experience will be pleasing even if they say something that might hurt someone’s feelings. It wouldn’t be wise for Bill Gates or Jack Welch to go on a review site and complain about the bad reviews. In the same way, it isn’t a good idea for authors to respond to negative book reviews. This is an issue customers can handle and the authors need to adjust to.

Limiting reviewers ability to be honest also leads to posters making a point in this fashion:

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I hope in the future this policy goes away or at least isn’t enforced. It’s bad for business.

P.S. I intended to do a character post, but I read Goodreads’ new policy about reviews and the responses from many book bloggers. I wanted to add my opinion. I’ll post this other topic soon.

Did you know about the Goodreads policy and what is your response?

I love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading my blog

A.G. Zalens

Fiction Writing: Prepare Before You Start

Writing a fiction novel is doing something fun and creative, which fulfills the advice to do what you love. Yet, the storms come when a writer starts a novel without the necessary background in place.

This gave me the idea to blog about what I’ve learned during my journey to write a novel and I’ll spread out the steps and how to incorporate them over several posts.

My first step started with the concept.

Every minute spent on the prep and outline of my novel supported me during the process. I developed a complete concept and plot, and I managed the story to the end.

Step One:

CloudsDecide Your Overall Concept

Years ago, my first attempt at writing a novel centered on two characters perfect for story building. After a lot of notes and careful character description, I wrote the first pages. A few hundred words later, I stopped. All the big decisions wrecked my momentum. I never plotted the story and the writing stalled.

To avoid my mistake make certain to craft a concept, which will move the characters to the story’s end.

Answer this question first:

What type of genre will keep me interested while writing thousands of words?

The books we love to read come to our minds. However, a historical suspense, though fun to read, involves a lot of research and strategy. Those who love to read, study, and search history may choose this genre, but if that doesn’t describe you then you might pick a genre you want to research.

Many lists of genres exist ( Book Genres from The Guardian) and you can pick something general or specific. It depends on your approach to the story. A plot that includes the paranormal may need room to evolve and bring in other concepts and creatures. Stories based on a real situation may benefit from a specific genre to keep it on track.

Next, answer this question:

Where and when do I want my characters to live?

Look back at the last question and decide what place you want to research. The place and time you’re willing and eager to devote time and effort on fact-finding.

A town, city, farm, outer space, new universe, new planet, anything you can describe and use to give your characters somewhere to live, visit, or explore. The past, present, or future gives the story something to describe and bring substance to the characters and their journey.

Then answer this question:

What is the purpose of telling this story?

If your story has no purpose than the readers will wonder why they spent so much time reading it. At the end the conclusion should resolve something in the story.

An emotional reaction at the finish gratifies the reader, allows them to find closure in the story, and anticipate the next book. Any novel, which stops with loose-ends and a “to be continued” better conclude at least one main aspect of the story. A hook for the next book in a series only works after the plot’s resolution.

What is your process before you write the first word of a story? Do you have any advice for those who struggle with this?

The next section is character development, and I will write out the way I developed my characters in the next installment blog post.

I hope you enjoyed my post and look forward to talking with you!

Thanks for visiting my blog,

A.G. Zalens

20 Books to Love

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I often wonder about those who don’t like to read. I carry reading material with me at all times. Every second to spare is a perfect time to read. So what do they do besides reading? It’s a mystery to me.

Many times non-readers will ask me why I read so much and the question seems as absurd as a person not liking to read. I’m not sure how to answer. Books add to my life. They give me intriguing stories, events, and knowledge. They can’t relate, but to me they are missing out.

So I wanted to share twenty of my favorite books:

What are some of your favor books? Do non-readers question your reading habits?

I would love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading my blog.

A.G. Zalens

These 4 Popular Writing Techniques Baffle Me

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A new popular book, praise of the highest quality, amazing cover, compelling synopsis, and a short time to read. I start and realize the style doesn’t appeal to me. Disappointed, I try to read it, but usually abandon it before I finish.

Others love, love, love these stories and the authors have reached the perfect audience. I just don’t qualify and I wondered what aspects lost my attention.

I’ve narrowed it down to four styles that I tend to stay away from.

One Drama Packed POV with Little Action

I enjoy teenage angst in stories; it validates those awkward and emotional years. However, at some point the validation becomes excessive, and turns from “I know that feeling!” to “Make it stop!” A small portion of rich angst flavors the whole story, any more chips away at its beauty.

For me, a story coated with drama feels like my best-friend has taken over my mind for several days. Even though I anticipate the time with her, I’d rather not hear her every thought summed up in 100k words or less.

Another POV introduced into the book breaks up the internal voice and adds a new viewpoint. Especially when it’s from the perspective females worry over the most. The guy.

For example the girl might think this: He’s mad at me. I know it. He walked in, saw me, nodded, and kept talking on his phone. He only does that when he’s mad.

And then the next scene we get the guy’s perspective: Oh, there she is, I wish I could talk to her. At least I get to look at her cute dimpled smile while I finish convincing this difficult jerk to take back his crappy product.

Multi-POV, it’s the way to go.

Stylized and Figurative Language

You know, the books overwhelmed with metaphors, similes, accents, or stutters. In sporadic intervals this language brings a new angle and intrigue. The overuse becomes so predictable I can foresee the next metaphor before it pops into the text.

I understand the desire to include them, that transition to creative mode, clichés rejected, perfect comparisons found, and satisfaction of a show well done. However, every scene should include more dialog, internal voice, and action than metaphors, similes, and accents.

It’s perfect for back-story or short chapters of an alternate POV, but an entire book without a change is less like Shakespeare and more like a stuffy neighbor showing off.

Romance For No Reason

It’s possible for intended romance to lack romance; if the book is a romance than that’s a problem. All other books can do without the romance, especially if it doesn’t work out. The reader knows when it’s forced. I would rather its exclusion than its confusion.

Several issues with romance includes: the characters don’t know each other, no dialog has taken place between them, their dialog is always negative or disrespectful, it happens too fast, no redeeming qualities are present in one or both characters, or there is no evidence given that the characters actually like each other.

Romance requires a lot of care, preparation, and development. Anyone who writes romance should read at least ten romance novels before they include it. Knowing love doesn’t always transition to writing amazing romance.

History For The Sake of History

I know people enjoy their historical fiction. If the story takes place in Paris, readers expect abundant details. If the year is 1969, then Woodstock, hippies, long straight hair, and peace should appear somewhere in the story.

However, when the book’s theme doesn’t relate to the age, events, or structure of a building, it probably shouldn’t be included. Any past war that is irrelevant to the modern-day story should be brief in description, if described at all.

Just because the main character is reading a historical book about birds, it isn’t necessary to include a five-page quote from the book, unless your book is about birds. No matter how beautiful the text, the history of birds doesn’t belong in a science fiction fantasy romance.

Short descriptive and quick transitions move me through the story. The irrelevant history stalls it and I skim those parts. Any book that isn’t a historical fiction should exclude multi-chapter history lessons, unless it’s of a new world and the history provides substance.

What styles have turned you from a book? Are they popular or a rarity?

I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading my blog!
A.G. Zalens